Jewish Students and Scholars Object to US Bill Banning Criticism of Israel

By IMEMC | – –

Jewish scholars and students have released statements urging the US House of Representatives and President Obama to reject the controversial “Antisemitism Awareness Act”.

In a recent initiative by US based organization Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish scholars and students signed statements urging both the House of Representatives, as well as President Obama, to reject the act.

The scholars’ statement has already been signed by individuals from New York University, Penn State University, Brown University, Standford University, UCLA and more. It reads:

“As scholars of Jewish studies, we strongly object to “the Antisemitism Awareness Act” which is soon to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would officially categorize as antisemitic “demonization,” “de-legitimation” and “the use of double standard” regarding Israel. This intentionally vague definition is dangerously susceptible to manipulations, and threatens to further diminish freedom of speech and academic freedom on our campuses.

The overly broad language has the potential to define any criticism of Israeli policy as antisemitic. This could include frank discussions of the impact of Zionism, campus disagreements about the future of Israel/Palestine, and in fact, much of what falls under Jewish Studies in all facets, including courses. This is fundamentally contrary to the educational processes of learning critical thinking and disparate points of view, and hurts our ability to prepare students to take on global challenges ahead of us.

By potentially targeting those offering criticism of the State of Israel, many of whom are Jews themselves, (and not the white supremacists emboldened by President-elect Trump), this bill fails to confront the real threats facing Jews in America. Instead, this bill poses a threat to human rights advocates, scholars, and students. It is no coincidence that many of these students are Muslim and/or people of color, and are facing similar targeting from a resurgent far-right.

American Jews do not need protection from passionate young activists organizing for justice. Rather, we need to join with justice-seeking people everywhere to fight white supremacy, racism and the genuine antisemitism that are reemerging in the very highest levels of government. Therefore, as scholars of Jewish studies, we call upon all those who are committed to fighting racism and safeguarding academic freedom to speak out against this misguided and dangerous bill.”

Following a similar appeal the statement signed by Jewish students explains:

“Dear Members of the House of Representatives and President Obama,

As Jewish students, we urge you to reject the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and to protect free speech on campuses across America. We are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and secular Jews; and we are deeply concerned about the rise of real anti-Semitism in white supremacist movements in this country, including the appointment of real anti-Semites like Stephen Bannon to powerful positions in the upcoming Trump administration. But this bill does little to protect us, as Jewish students, from these dangers. Rather, it serves to limit our freedom of expression around the vital issues of our time.

Regardless of our personal political views, we recognize that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, including support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is not inherently anti-Semitic. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, however, conflates legitimate criticism of the policies of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism, using a problematic definition of anti-Semitism never intended for use on college campuses. Kenneth Stern, the author of the original EU definition upon which the State Department definition is based, has urged you to reject the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and to not use this definition to restrict speech on college campuses. [http://jkrfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Letter-to-members-of…

At a time when freedom of expression is under threat across the country, we need to be protecting and expanding speech, not restricting it. We urge you not to pass the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and instead to take meaningful action to combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and other forms of bigotry on the rise across the country.”

via Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestinian BDS

Via IMEMC

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Palestine Legal: “Staff Attorney Liz Jackson explains Anti-Semitism Awareness Act”

6 Responses

  1. They are always so quick to accuse the left of banning particular statements, and of working generally against the freedoms of speech and of the press.

    But what’s one of the first things they want to do when they get the chance … ban particular statements (against something they think they love), and work generally against our freedoms of speech, and of the press.

  2. EyeOnThePress

    It sounds as if this bill massively violates the First Amendment. Do you think it really has a chance of standing up in court?

  3. Joseph Saltarelli

    Shame the “greatest deliberative body” in world-US Senate-didn’t wait to consider before approving by unanimous consent. Travesty.

  4. Ironic that in the US where you can insult the President, criticize his policies, and also condemn any American that you disagree with, this senseless bill has gone so far. Apparently free speech is muted when it comes to Israel. Why have the Congress gone along with this outrage?

  5. Why? Because the mighty U.S. government can not bring itself to prosecute the unregistered American political agents and lobbyists for Israel who are responsible for this very legislation. What they are doing in our Congress is felonious and yet we can’t even speak of it much less enforce our criminal code. Our political and administrative classes are perpetually on the defensive out of raw fear of reprisal by political untouchables. How they accomplish it inside our government is explained in humiliating detail by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt in The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy. Nothing about it is covert except that no records are kept.

  6. Is this not Israel throwing in the towel? They have given up on the propaganda war. They have lost control of the narrative. They have lost the “Israel is a legitimate nation” argument and are now seeking to squelch any discussion at all. When was the last time you heard “Israel is a light unto the nations” or “the IDF is the world’s most moral army”. Now such statements only garner a grim snicker.

    Of course we should fight this bill as an affront to free speech but we should also recognize it as significant step on the path toward success.

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